Racial Disparities in MRSA Infections

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What is MRSA?

Image taken from a colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) magnified at 20,000X depicting a grouping of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria. Photo credit belongs to Public Health Image Library. CDC.

By Amir Johnson

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA for short, is a Gram-positive cocci-shaped (spherical) bacterium that measures approximately 1μm in diameter and forms clusters that are popularly described as being grape-like. [1] S. aureus is present on and within the bodies of many individuals asymptomatically, and as a result of this it often remains unnoticed. According to studies around 20% of people are persistent nasal carriers of S. aureus and around 30% are intermittent carriers, with the remaining 50% not carrying the bacterium. [1] Other than within the nose, S. aureus can be commonly seen present on the skin, skin glands, guts, and a variety of mucous membranes. This presence within the body is referred to as colonization, and it significantly increases the chances of acquiring an infection by providing a reservoir of the pathogen. [1] In most cases, the previously asymptomatic, commensal S. aureus that previously colonized the microbiome of individuals is responsible for their infection. [2] Within the world of public health and medicine, a hugely important factor associated with S. aureus is its significant level of acquisition of resistance against multiple antibiotic classes, which greatly complicates efforts to treat it clinically. [3] Methicilin is an antibiotic class of particular interest with regard to resistance acquisition among S. aureus. According to the latest CDC data released in 2019, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus and other, less prominent strains of S. aureus accounted for an estimated 119,247 bloodstream infections within the United States in 2017, while causing 19,832 of those infected to pass away from complications associated with infection. [4] <be>

As shown in the number of cases within 2017 alone given above, infections due to MRSA are a widespread phenomenon, however, there are stark differences in the incidence rates between different races in the US, particularly amongst Black and White people. [5]

Health Effects of MRSA

Include some current research, with at least one figure showing data.

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Hospital and Healthcare Associated MRSA

Unadjusted healthcare-associated community-onset cases of invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus rates by race for cases among dialysis patients. Figure credits belong to the authors of the cited paper. [5]

Community-Associated MRSA

MRSA cases by race, stratified by quartiles of US census data pertaining to income, housing, education, and health. Cases are depicted in increasing quartiles of census data, per 100000 persons for white (white bars) and black (black bars) persons. Figure credits belong to the authors of the cited paper. [6]

Section 4

Include some current research, with at least one figure showing data.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lakhundi, S., & Zhang, K. https://doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00020-18 "Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus: Molecular Characterization, Evolution, and Epidemiology." 2018. Clinical microbiology reviews, 31(4), e00020-18.
  2. Rhonda Griffiths, Ritin Fernandez, Elizabeth Halcomb "Reservoirs of MRSA in the acute hospital setting: A systematic review" 2002. Contemporary Nurse, 13:1, 38-49
  3. Ventola, C Lee. “The antibiotic resistance crisis: part 1: causes and threats.” 2015 P & T : a peer-reviewed journal for formulary management vol. 40,4: 277-83.
  4. Kourtis AP, Hatfield K, Baggs J, et al. "Vital Signs: Epidemiology and Recent Trends in Methicillin-Resistant and in Methicillin-Susceptible Staphylococcus aureus Bloodstream Infections — United States." 2019 MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:214–219.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Gualandi, Nicole et al. “Racial Disparities in Invasive Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infections, 2005-2014.” Clinical infectious diseases: an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America vol. 67,8 2018: 1175-1181. doi:10.1093/cid/ciy277
  6. Isaac See, Paul Wesson, Nicole Gualandi, Ghinwa Dumyati, Lee H. Harrison, Lindsey Lesher, Joelle Nadle, Susan Petit, Claire Reisenauer, William Schaffner, Amy Tunali, Yi Mu, Jennifer Ahern "Socioeconomic Factors Explain Racial Disparities in Invasive Community-Associated Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Disease Rates" 2017. Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 64, Issue 5, 1 March 2017, Pages 597–604.